The Mind-Body connection is a buzz phrase that we hear often today. Exercise programs promote this additional dimension to the benefits of engaging in that form of exercise. But what does “Mind-Body” truly mean? Essentially, it alludes to the idea that what happens in the mind affects the body, and vice versa. So when you engage in a physical exercise without also engaging the mind, you may strengthen the body, but since the wellbeing of the body is tied to the mind, there is a missing link. How do you enhance Mind Body connection? Yoga is the ancient practice credited with taking a holistic approach to total wellbeing, strengthening and fortifying the body while engaging the mind. Read on to find out how.
How many times per day do you think about your breath? If you’re like most people, not often. In Yoga, the breath is referred to as Prana, which means life force. The practice of yoga encourages active participation in the breath through exercises called Pranayama. For most of the day, the average person breathes in very shallow, short breathes through the mouth. Our lungs never become fully filled or emptied, and breathing through the mouth leaves us open to inhaling the toxins and allergens that our nostrils would normally filter out.
Try this simple yogic pranayama practice to experience the benefits of breath awareness. If you practice yoga consistently, you’ll find yourself more aware of your breath in daily life. Benefits of this include better overall health, better sleep, and a sense of well-being.
– Sit quietly and in a comfortable position. Close the eyes and bring the awareness to the breath. Don’t try to change it yet, just observe it. After a few rounds of breath observation, switch to breathing through the nose. Once you have established this, begin to lengthen the breath. Inhale for a count of 5, then exhale for a count of 5. Feel your belly, ribs, and chest expand fully on the inhale. Complete 3 rounds of this, them lengthen your breath even more by breathing to a count of 6. Continue moving up like this until you reach 10, or reach your limit comfort-wise.
An Ocean of Ideas
The number of thoughts and ideas that pass through our minds as we move through the day and even sleep at night is infinite. While can never truly control our mind’s thought process, we can become more aware of our thoughts, and how we respond to them through Yoga. One way this occurs is while practicing asana, or the postures of yoga. Yoga is a very personal practice. You may see a model demonstrating a very advanced pose, but your attempt at it looks very different. That is yoga! Accepting what your practice looks like, and working towards becoming non-reactive when entering a pose that is difficult is one way we tap into what our immediate reactions are and then choose how to respond. Meditation is another way we tune into our thoughts, and begin to realize the effect they have on our body and how we feel. Meditation teachers encourage their students to “be the witness” to their thoughts in practice.
Try this simple practice to tune into your “sea of thought”. Practice regularly, and your will come to understand your thought processes, and their effect on your health and body.
– Sit quietly and comfortably. Close the eyes, and begin to settle into the breath. Begin long even inhales and exhales through the nose. Continue this breath awareness, but as you do so, don’t fight the thoughts that pop up in your mind. Identify them, than visualize that you are pushing them aside with your hand, making room for new thoughts. Continue this meditation for as long as you like, but aim for at least 5 minutes to start.
By practicing yoga, we are strengthening the body through the physical postures. But the teachings of yoga encourage us to not just simply move the body in space, but to be aware of why we are doing it, and how it makes us feel. This mind-body connection helps us to engage more dynamically in life, with our world and those around us.
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